When Your Parents Get Old

oak tree

The first time you realize your parents might be getting old, is when they forget the name of their favorite snack.

It’s subtle, and doesn’t bother you that much. It just creeps up a little bit.

“Honey, what is the name of that cheese snack that has the fish on it?” your mom might say.

“Do you mean ‘Goldfish?'”

And she’ll nod and say, “Oh of course that’s what I meant to say.”

Then you quickly forget about it. After all, everybody forgets something.

The realization doesn’t happen again until they forget where Best Buy is located. And you try to mention to your father, “You know dad, its always been here. You’ve been able to find it before, why can’t you remember it now?”

And while you’re in the car, trying to give directions, he’ll complain about how your music is too loud, and it’s distracting him, even though it’s actually his album of ABBA that’s playing from the stereo.

Then as soon as you go into the large blue building that envelopes you in a space that is filled with buzzing gadgets and white noise, the man who used to advise you on technology, is now asking you for help.

It’s okay though. Because really, technology is changing all the time. You think to yourself, “Well, not everyone knows what Android’s are.”

So you push back the idea again. Because it’s a little bit terrifying, and a little bit sad. That maybe, just maybe, they’re not the same person anymore.

But after you’ve been away for a few months, and you come back to visit, it hits hard. Really hard.

Your mom calls you by a different name.

Your dad yells at you for not feeding the cat, when in actuality, you just did.

You have to yell the McDonald’s order out from the passenger seat, because your parents take too long to order and end up forgetting what, “That thing with cheese and tomatoes” is called. Which by the way, is a single cheeseburger.

Probably the worst is when your mom can’t go out and do the one thing that she loves the most: running. She doesn’t mention it to you, because she’s embarrassed and knows you’ll harass her about it, but you can’t help but notice that she’s stopped putting on her florescent Nike tennis shoes early in the morning.

And you don’t want to ask. It’s the very. last. thing. you want to ask. But you have to — it’s not a choice.

“Mom. Why aren’t you running anymore?” you’ll ask when she pours you orange juice for breakfast (which by the way, you’ve told her since elementary school that you despise that stupid citrus drink.)

And she won’t look at you. No, she’ll go back to the kitchen counter and start buttering the toast. But she’ll mutter softly:

“The doctor told me I shouldn’t run anymore.”

Then that’s that. Maybe you’ll ask her to expand, and she’ll say something about a bad hip and maybe needing surgery, and then you have to face reality.

Your friends around you are getting married and having children. You, yourself, are making new relationships and learning more about what you want in life, bit by bit.

And while your life is going on around you and you’re focused on your own thing — the two people that meant the world to you are now changing themselves. They are still the doting people that raised you, but they’re also the people that you’ll someday have to dote on, and someday. Someday, you will have to learn to live without.

But until then. You will hold their hand as you help them up the icy stairs to the shopping mall, and both of you will curse the establishment for being too cheap to put salt on the stairs — completely ignoring the fact that it really isn’t icy.

And you will explain to your parents that yes, times are changing and more people are getting tattoos, and there is such a thing as liking too many Facebook photos in one sitting.

And when you bring your mom to the doctor as she gets ready for her hip surgery, you will whisper in her ear that you love her, and that no amount of time will ever change that.

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Why I stopped buying textbooks (and gave higher education the middle finger)

books

I remember the first time I bought textbooks as I got ready for my first semester of college. After saving a couple hundred dollars from my summer job, I proudly searched the depths of Amazon and purchased “collegiate” textbooks, that ensured my novice mind that I was on the path to bigger and better things.

However, it was sometime between my first and second semester of my freshman year, that I had an inkling that I was being duped.

The mindset went something like this. But probably with more curse words, snarky eye rolls and less than clear language:

  • “Wow. I can’t wait to learn something and better myself. These books will be of great assistance.”
  • “Okay. Well you can sit down and memorize something you’re not going to remember, or you can do something more productive like sit on Facebook.”
  • “This is dumb. This book is dumb. It will be out of context in a few years. My professor doesn’t even reference it and I’m out $500. Not buying a single book next semester.”
  • Next semester: “Hey okay, let’s buy these books.”

It’s a vicious cycle where I overestimate my capabilities, and believe that I’m actually going to do hours of assigned reading everyday, when in actuality, my attention span is too short and I’m too darn lazy.

I used to think that I was really unintelligent, especially when I saw some people around me immersed in their textbooks, and reciting verbatim the content they read. I wallowed as I attempted to read page after page, but my mind was always on something else.

For my sophomore year, I decided to say “screw you” to my professors and to Amazon, and decided to keep that $500 in my wallet.

In each of my classes, my professors told us to go out and purchase the required text. I just smirked and went on with my life.

When they said, “follow the syllabus and do the assigned reading,” for me it meant, “go do something you actually want to do and screw this.”

And I did. I did a lot of things. I worked on a political campaign, met and gave a speech before Michelle Obama, wrote a ton of news articles (and then got promoted to editor), started up an electronic magazine and led an LGBTQIA group on campus.

I was busier than all of my friends and often didn’t have time to eat or sleep. And yet — I didn’t do a single bit of homework I deemed unnecessary and I definitely didn’t read the assigned text. (Instead, I used the money for textbooks and received subscriptions to some newspapers and read those all day.)

I still hold a 3.5 and above GPA. Because well, we can’t get too crazy now, can we?

Now it’s not to say that I think higher education is bad.  It’s just that for the price that I’m paying — I wish there was a way to serve the needs of different personalized learning experiences. By the time you get into college, it’s pretty hard to stray from your learning habits.

And I know many people disagree with my analysis of college (I’m assuming my friends who are education majors are cringing at this moment.) That is completely fine. What works for me, doesn’t work for everyone else. I understand the importance of being a well-rounded person and having the ability to sit down and read, and analyze information, and all of that other stuff.

But.

It’s not for everyone.

And I’ve learned that it’s not for me.

On Self-Loathing

shadow

Self-loathing is the unshakable tormenting imaginary friend that every 20-something young adult tries hard to break a relationship with.

It’s that invisible whisper in your ear that reminds you why you’re not good enough and doesn’t let you sleep at night. It’s that transparent body that blocks you from moving forward and tells you that you might as well just go back to where you came from. It sometimes takes the form of a parent, a friend, or even a stranger who chuckles at your naivety and mocks you with a middle finger.

For myself, my self-loathing became more prominent my fall semester of my sophomore year. In everything I did — no matter if it was successful — there was an auspicious awareness that it was not good enough and would amount to nothing. No matter what I did this semester: present a speech before First Lady Michelle Obama, get promoted to News Editor, meet amazing writers, and among other things that I was lucky to take part in — I still came back to my dorm riddled with anxiety and stress over my apparent inability to produce anything worthy of being called, “good.”

Even self-loathing made me stop blogging after I posted the most successful blog post I ever had.

And like so many self infatuated young adults, I assumed it was just me that had this problem. It wasn’t until I was at a party when a friend of mine drunkenly confessed her feelings of inept when it came to herself, her work and her future. In my opinion, she was an extremely amazing artist (her undergrad major) and that it was silly to spend time hating herself when she was perhaps one of the few people I admired my age.

In contrast, I think of my friends who are confident in themselves but are ignorant to their lack of ability. Like most young adults, I have many friends who want to be authors, photographs, artists, actors; but are acutely unaware that the work they currently produce is lackluster.

Why do talented people feel like their contributions are below average, and why do untalented people feel like their contributions are “God’s gift to mankind?”

In a quote from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: Miss Maudie speaks about Atticus’ hidden shooting talent and says, “People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”

While perpetual and severe self-loathing is never a good thing as it is detrimental to someone’s own psyche — an understanding of humility and one’s own lack of ability is a thing that a person can learn from. The person who believes they have a lot to learn will eventually outshine the person who believes they are superior and gifted.

In turn however — humility is a balancing act. Recently, I had an internship interview at a prominent newspaper in Iowa. I was 100% positive they weren’t even going to contact me for an interview. When I did get contacted for an interview, I was in immediate panic mode and was sure that I was going to do a terrible job and would be an unqualified candidate. My best friend’s father gave me the simple advice of acting like the paper would be lucky to have me, instead of the other way around. Through this simple façade of courage and vigor — I know that the interview went 10x better than it would have if I went in with a determination that I was unfit for the position.

But things like acting confident during an interview is obvious. It’s the balancing act of humility and courage that young adults need to sort through when applying for jobs/colleges, swimming through the dating scene or even living their everyday lives.

Most young adults in this generation lack assertiveness and confidence which is saddening. We lack the ability to feel strongly about something or voice our opinion for fear of offending someone. And then when we do stand up for ourselves or do something daring — we chastise ourselves for it immediately afterwards and follow up with, “but that’s just my own opinion” or “but I could definitely be wrong.”

At the same time, American society is individualistic and is focused on the sole person. Parents smother their children with overbearing compliments and comfort, and those children turn into young adults who fail to see themselves past the veil of, “Oh Johnny, you were the best pumpkin in the play out of all of them.”

So after rambling about the same thing over and over again — I leave you with this one belief that I’ve acquired.

I would rather do great things and self-loathe myself, rather than be mediocre and live in naive state of mind. I would rather be talented and not talk about it than be average and act boastful. I would rather believe other people are better than me, than proclaim myself as the best.

At the same time — there are certain things confident people have a better chance to get such as happiness, friends and certain things that require charisma such as a job interview or even a job offer.

So after today, I am going to try and learn how to live with my self-loathing imaginary friend, and take everything he says with a grain of salt.

Why I Wish I Wrote More Often

At my age, I haven’t lived long enough to have any major regrets. There’s a few minor ones that I remember such as not attending a friend’s Bar Mitzvah or wishing that I actually stuck with that New Year’s resolution to lose weight. But for the most part, I’ve luckily been saved from any major self-induced heartbreak.

Right now however, I wish I would have written more often my entire lifetime.

If I chronicled my days in a journal when I was younger, perhaps I would have a better understanding of the person that I am right now. If I wrote poetry when I was younger, perhaps I’d have the ability to thoughtfully provoke life lessons in each thing I do and pair it with a clever metaphor.

Perhaps if I read and wrote more often, I’d be a more articulate person that wouldn’t be so damn lazy and occasionally look at writing assignment with disdain.

And maybe writing would become an easy rhythm and it would be easy to sit down with a blank Microsoft Word document staring blankly ahead of me and create content that would just be dashing and wonderful.

The title of this article before I published it on WordPress was documented as “FINISH THIS FOR ONCE.doc.” These threatening titles are a trend for my documents on my computer. I also have, “DON’T BE LAZY.doc” and the classy, “STOP STREAMING NETFLIX.doc.”

I mentioned to a family friend once that I felt guilty that I hadn’t blogged for a while. Her reply was simply, “Write when you feel inspired.”

That doesn’t cut it for me.

While for many, it can be a legitimate excuse, for me, it’s just that— An excuse. Thankfully, I’ve had many ideas. Shamefully, many of them don’t come into fruition because I just can’t bring myself to write. At night, I often worry that the ideas I have will drip out of my ear and on to my pillow, simply because I have not engaged in the act of producing and thoughtfully analyzing content for a while.

But even if there are no grand ideas, I believe people should still write. Perhaps that will be the biggest learning experience of them all: producing quality content when you know you have no idea what you’re doing whatsoever. It’s the challenge of coming up with something unique along with your ferocious combination of a lively vocabulary and some mean grammar.

And so with that, I have decided that for this school year, I will take my own advice and let go of the excuses. Even if something I write is complete and utter garbage, it is worth the challenge to have learned something and perhaps get those few perfectly articulated sentences.

I wish that I wrote more when I was younger. Well. There’s no better time than now to try and fix that.

And so I ask, is there anything that you wish you would have down when you were younger, and if so, what can you do now to try and achieve that past goal?

I am a Liberal, Gay-Loving Person who works at Chick-fil-A

chick fil a

(Please note: This is purely my own opinion. I do not represent anyone except myself.)

For a very long time, I’ve wanted to make a Facebook status about this identity crisis that I’ve had for as long as I can remember.

I’ve finally been pushed to actually write something after the President of Chick-fil-A admitted that he was against gay marriage. (Didn’t we already know this? I’m shocked people didn’t already know.)

I work at Chick-fil-A. I absolutely love my job. Let me repeat that: I love my job. I get to work with all of my friends in a safe and fun environment, while also giving great customer service and being proud of the work that I’m doing. Plus I’m making a decent wage.

I am also an intern at the Obama campaign. I am the Director of Media Relations for UNI Proud, the University of Northern Iowa’s LGBT Group. I have been to two pride festivals. I have more gay male friends than I have straight male friends.

As you can assume, my job that I love and the people that I love don’t always coincide, but they both have made me the person that I am today.

Likewise, with both “sides” of my life, I have hidden the real person that I am.

When I told one person at work that I might intern with the Obama campaign, I was immediately debated and battled. After interning over a month, I have finally told a small section of the people that I work with about my internship.

When I tell people at UNI that I have a job in my hometown, I don’t say Chick-fil-A. I always say the name of the mall I work in, or I just say I work at a restaurant. The instant I say Chick-fil-A at my school, the response is “You know they’re homophobic, right?”

And recently, my Facebook feed (and Tumblr…and Twitter) has been blown up with people boycotting Chick-fil-A and assuming that everyone who goes there or works there are all bigoted.

It makes me extremely confused about what I should tell people. When I present my conservative mother with this issue, she tells me to get over this “gay trend.” When I tell my gay friends about this, they tell me to quit my job.

Today I told one of my friends about this idea I had for the blog and she asked, “I’ve known you for a long time, but I have never understood why you as a liberal actually like your job at Chick-fil-A.”

And for over two years, while I have always known that the corporation was against an issue that I feel strongly about, it was not until recently when The New York Times and even KCCI  decided to cover the controversy that I ask myself,

Is it possible to have pride in your job, even when it doesn’t agree with your morals?

It seems that in the argument over Chick-fil-A, there is no gray area in between. Either you despise the establishment and vow to never let those delicious chicken nuggets touch your lips, or you’re Mike Huckabee and you’re a gross bigot who hates everything that’s not conservative and Christian. (And don’t get me started on Rick Santorum…)

However, it’s not all like that. There is a difference between a corporation and it’s people.

At my store, we’ve had multiple openly gay employees. While I’m pretty positive I’m the only democrat, I know that some of my co-workers don’t really care whether gay or straight people get married. And of course, there are many of my co-workers who believe that marriage should be between a man and a wife. That’s no issue, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.

And I don’t blame the people who are boycotting our store now. After all, if I only had the media’s perspective on the issue, I would be one of those people as well. But there’s so much more. One person does not represent hundreds of stores and thousands of employees, even if he is the president.

I agree that donating millions of dollars to anti-gay marriage organizations is wrong, and I understand people don’t want their money going towards that. I wouldn’t either. (Source: NY Times: Gay Rights Uproar Over Chick-fil-A Widens)

However, it also makes me sad that there are people out there who aren’t going to experience our great service and delicious food. They’re not going to understand why I think our store is so great. And it makes me extremely upset that there are going to be people out there that will automatically assume that we’re all homophobic people, when in fact, I work fantastic people, and while some may have their beliefs that are different than mine, I still respect them.

I’m definitely biased because I’m viewing this from “inside the trade” and I see it more locally than corporate wide. But my bias towards wanting the most happiness for my friends and knowing that they should get the right to get married, no matter, what also creates a rip inside of me.

And so after all of that rambling, to answer my question about whether it’s possible to have pride in your job even when it’s against your morals…

I honestly don’t know.

I know that I’m happy with where I’m working, but I know that it sucks that the president of the company doesn’t agree with my views and would purposely try to block off the happiness and equal rights that so many in our country deserve. (Though he does have every right to do so.)

I know that I’m proud of the great service that we give and the emphasis we have on treating everyone with respect. I wish that my job would stop feeling like a political statement these days.

I am proud of where I work at and the people I work with. They respect my views and I respect their views as well. I am not proud of  the corporation’s stance on marriage equality.

And so I ask, oh lovely readers of mine who have graciously read the ramblings of confusion that I have felt for so long:

Is it possible to have pride in your job, even if it’s against your morals?

Behind the Camera: Cortney Kintzer

Recently, I was lucky enough to conduct an e-mail interview with my friend’s dad, Cortney Kintzer.

Cortney works as Director of Photography at KCCI-TV here in Des Moines, and he is also a recipient of an Emmy Award for his great work at the station.

Check out my interview with him, where he talks about his love for journalism, how he got into the industry and what aspiring journalists should do to achieve their dream.

How did you get started in journalism?

My dad worked for the Associated Press as a teletype operator, so the CBS Evening News was always on in our house at 5:30 each evening.  When I was in junior high school, I wanted to be a Hollywood movie cameraman, but in watching the news, I thought a career in TV News photojournalism sounded interesting and fun.  I had a home movie camera that I used to carry around, and after awhile, I started showing up at news events and started filming them on my own.  My dad was even able to get me my first press pass, to cover President Gerald Ford’s visit to Iowa in 1974.

Who were influences for your career?

I guess my first influence was my boss at WHO-TV, Lisle Shires.  He was their Chief Photographer and he hired me as a junior at Roosevelt High School (in Des Moines), to work in the station’s film lab.  That was May of 1975.  He taught me how to shoot and edit 16mm color film for the station’s news programs.  I was VERY lucky to get a break at that young age.  As the old saying goes…he taught me all that I know.

What do I enjoy about my job?  I call it the “Ultimate backstage pass to Life”….!  I have been to the White House twice to shoot a one-on-one interview with both President Clinton, and President Obama.  I have been to the Grammy Awards four years in a row to shoot interviews on the Red Carpet, even wore a tux because we had tickets to the show! I also shoot, fires, murders, weather footage, nature stories, interviews, features and live shots.  Every day is a new adventure!

What aspects of your job do you enjoy?

The best part of the job is meeting so many different people, in all lines of work and situations.  I LOVE traveling around rural Iowa and visiting small towns.  Every day is so interesting….I never know what I am going to each day until I come into work.  My shift is M-F, 9:30am until 6pm.  I am “on-call” 24 hours a day.  Sometimes I might get called out of bed at 2am, to shoot a fire or a bad accident.  When the weather is nice, I get to be outside every day shooting….and when the weather is lousy, well, I have a rain cover for my camera to keep it dry, and I just have to dress to keep warm!!!!

What advice would you give to aspiring broadcast journalists?

My advice to aspiring journalists is to call your favorite TV newsroom and ask for a tour, and to shadow a journalist for the day.

What is it like in the KCCI studio?

Our job at News Channel 8 is to keep the community informed about what is going on in and around Iowa.

The Heartbreak Bloggers Face

Today I visited campus to help with orientation. An acquaintance came up to me and asked me if I still write.

I said no.

He offered up a suggestion and then we were both on our way.

My “no” was a simple answer, but it doesn’t live up to the agony and self-loathing that has occurred for the past few weeks.

He doesn’t know that for the past few weeks, I have 17 blog drafts that have a few feeble sentences on each one. Born from a burst of light in my mind, but not strong enough and quickly dead on my florescent computer screen.

He doesn’t know that I have been trying to push ideas through my cranium, jamming my fingers against the cold unforgiving keyboard, begging my mind:

“PLEASE. PLEASE LET ME WRITE SOMETHING.”

And deep down inside, I question, “Is this the end? Will this be another project where I was too lazy, too uninspired, too unnoticed, too little reward… Will this end up in the depths of my computer’s recycling bin where I will try to forget it and not remember that this is another one of my many projects that started out great and ended in a complete catastrophe.

He doesn’t know that every time I write something, I question if someone will actually read it. Or perhaps they’ll press that little “like” star button without reading it, just because some other asshole also wants me to visit his blog. To actually READ his blog, because god forbid that it was too hard for him to read mine but he made an effort and pressed a little star to try and make me go visit his.

He doesn’t know that as a writer you’re EXPECTED to spill your guts, but if someone was to lay me down and dissect my stomach, they would only find spicy cheeto’s and sour gummy worms.

And in that one moment, in that one flick of an eye, I reach out for an idea and it’s gone. It’s gone. Or when I grasp that idea but then try to push it through my fingers onto the keyboard… My mind gets in the way and my fingers fumble and they don’t know what to do or what to say or how to feel or what the point even is. (And yes. Ending in a preposition is bad, but I don’t see the grammar police crashing through me ceiling.)

Why oh why does everthing that a writer loves, dies?

Shakespeare, for example. He kills everything. Why does he kill the people that he nurtured and loved and gave life to, only to take it away with the quickness of a pen scratch?

And perhaps I can’t think of any ideas because sometimes it feels like I’m writing not for myself, but for the views. Yes we all know that feeling. That little jump in our heart when we see that random person from Australia has viewed our post and we think, “Oh yay. Our miniscule part that we hope to leave on the world has actually been read from across the Atlantic.”

This evening I thought about my answer. “No.” It pounded against my head. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no.”

No– I don’t care about oxford commas or even commas in general. No– I’ve stopped trying to get people to understand the messed up shit that comes from my mind. No– I’m sick of trying to write for other people or for potential employers. No– I haven’t been writing for myself.

Yes. I will say it now. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.